How to get the zip into Zipper Tickers

Sydney, 01 Jul 2016

Best friends and neighbours Rachel Coyte and Belinda Johnson co-founded Zipper Tickers in 2012 after discovering that they had both shared the harrowing experience of giving birth to children with Congenital Heart Defects (CHD).

Children born with CHDs have abnormally structured hearts which can change the flow of blood through it. Some children are born with minor defects and others have more complex and life-threatening conditions, which require immediate and multiple operations.

CHDs are Australia’s number one killer of young children, with four children dying from defects every week. CHDs claim twice as many children’s lives as all childhood cancers combined.

Zipper Tickers is made up of families who have been affected by CHDs and who volunteer to raise community awareness of the issue and support the Heart Centre for Children at Westmead Children’s Hospital in Sydney.

"When my son Ethan was diagnosed with a CHD less than 24 hours after birth he was flown to Westmead Children’s Hospital,” says Coyte. “I was terrified and in shock and he had to have two heart operations, one after the other."

"He then got sick with an infection and for the first time the doctors looked unsure. [But] my son is four years old now and he is fixed, healthy and amazing."

Ethan was connected to a paediatric heart-lung bypass machine during his two operations – an in-demand machine which services a large population.

"We are the best case scenario as Ethan is fine now, but there are hundreds of children who need ongoing and life-saving treatment," says Coyte.

To help Zipper Tickers in its fundraising goal - to purchase an additional paediatric heart-lung bypass machine for the Heart Centre - staff from Macquarie’s Specialised Investment Solutions division in Sydney voted to spend 2015 fundraising for the charity (each year the team votes on one non-profit to support for the year).

"We met with Zipper Tickers’ co-founders and couldn’t believe that one heart machine services such a large number of children," says Phil Armstrong, a fundraising committee member and Macquarie staff member.

"We were shocked and wanted to do something about it. Each week the doctors have to go through the waiting list and prioritise the children. Some have been on the list for a year or more because they keep getting bumped for emergencies."

The fundraising team organised a golf day, cycling event, wine auction and trivia night raising more than $A360,000 in total (with Macquarie Group Foundation matching).

"In one year they have raised more than three times the amount of money it had previously taken us three years to achieve," says Coyte.

As a result of the year-long fundraising efforts a paediatric heart-lung bypass machine was purchased for the Heart Centre and more than half the funds for a cardiac ultrasound echo machine, which is used to assess CHDs in children, has been contributed.

"Both of these pieces were urgent purchases and critical to the care of newborns and young children while undergoing major procedures," explains Mark Stewart, Head of Fundraising at the Children’s Hospital at Westmead.

"The heart-lung machine will be used in approximately 170 surgeries in 2016 (and over its seven-year life an extra 1190 surgeries) and the cardiac ultrasound echo machine will assist in over 5,600 procedures."

In recognition of its fundraising efforts, the Specialised Investment Solutions Division won the team category in Macquarie Group Foundation’s 2016 Staff in the Community Awards.

Image caption: Fundraising team members Philip Armstrong, Michael Price and Terence Kwan, with Rachel Coyte and Belinda Johnson.